It sums up my heart and life right now. That one word. Raw. And yet there are a thousand words that want to come spilling out, words I’ve buried over and over again, words I wish I could hear, words I wish I could say, words I’m proud of not saying, words I wish I hadn’t heard and hope to forget.
I planned for the school year to end like a race. You reach the finish line, pause, look around, enjoy the moment a little, then pack up and go home for a few days of quiet while the dust settles and you get back to normal. I planned it that way, but it certainly hasn’t happened that way. The past week has been more like a high speed collision of two worlds. Spinning, merging, clashing.
I’m feeling so many extremes lately, and recognize the Lord’s hand in both the adversity and the little drops of sunlight that keep me going even if they also threaten to break the dam of emotional vulnerability that has built up. There are so many ways in which we get feedback about our lives, and I suppose having 8 children naturally invites more of it. There are more people to be commented on, more mistakes to be made, more relationships to maintain. Little wonder, I suppose, and yet… I am just one person, one mother with one heart.
I have felt lonely and suffocated, forgotten and remembered, isolated and crowded, happy and sad, useless and serviceable, helpless and influential, bitter and grateful, empty and full, embraced and forsaken, calm and chaos. So many opposites bumping up against each other, sometimes within minutes as I run from one social circle to the next with different children. The sum of it all? I feel rubbed raw. Emotionally, mentally.
I don’t feel strong but must act it anyway because I have no choice but to be it; neither dare I show my weakness to those who feel obligated to remind me of my flaws and those of my children as if we ourselves are clueless about our imperfection. So you absorb more feedback and move on, tears stinging in your eyes as you blink hard and walk quickly away. They have no idea how hard I’m trying.
Tonight I was alone in my backyard for a few minutes. I wandered among my peonies, marvelling at the size of the flowers and beauty of the blooms. Their beauty brought the tears that life’s slaps couldn’t summon as I wondered honestly if I could carry on right now in a world without flowers. I realized that life’s much like gardens, usefulness and beauty growing up right next to the weeds and thorns. We don’t forsee the thistle that pokes out among the flowers any more than we forsee the challenges that often spring from the midst of our best efforts. If it is true that we need opposition to appreciate the good and the beautiful, then I’m thankful for such a colorful world right now. Much as I’ve disliked the stomach ache I’m living with, I would not want a world of gray.
A few lessons I’ve learned:
-How much people do or don’t advertise their problems has NOTHING to do with the number, size or severity of their problems. Just because they don’t talk about them with us doesn’t mean it’s our job to make sure they know they have them.
-The world has sped up and often feels out of control for many of us. Because of it, we’re carrying lingering feelings/struggles from one place to another because our lives are without margin. We’re all experiencing these extremes in our emotions and experiences. We have no idea when someone is about to snap, so it’s best to just assume that everyone is fragile and treat them gently.
-We will never be sorry for the times we withheld judgement, or on the other side, withheld a scathing reply. A compassionate or generous word isn’t something we regret.
-Focus on what’s going right. There’s an awful lot of it if we look around intent on finding it.
-Happiness really does come from within. And happy people have hard days.
I am so grateful for the generosity of the Lord in my life. Flowers, children, food to eat, a roof over our heads, a husband who lets me spill the pain of it all in his lap and still loves me, and best of all, a God whose hand firmly holds me at the edge of the cliff, letting me hurt and learn and discover but never sends me hurtling over the edge.
I lay in the grass and looked up at a deep blue sky as I thought about whose opinion really matters. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not community members who hardly know us. I care about these opinions, but in the end the one that matters is the Lord’s. It’s hard to hear his voice when we have so many others speaking loudly next to our ears, but I know it’s in there somewhere. Tomorrow my #1 job will be to tune the others out and tune in to what he’s saying. Maybe I’ll hear the whisper I’ve been craving: “I know you’re doing your best. You’re doing a good job. I will help you make your best better. I love you. You are good enough for me.” I know He can do it. He is, after all, the God who carpets our world with flowers.
Because of that realignment of voices and volumes, I remember that in the not-so-distant future this will all be a memory. Things will have settled in their proper places and life will have moved on. Hopefully we’ll be better people for it, and hopefully I’ll be a kinder person because of it. Everything will turn out and we can be certain that God will always give us opportunities to grow.
For that I am grateful.